Attended By: Andy Ogg, CTIE, Co-Owner – Travel Professional NEWS
With a different and challenging year upon us, many conferences and events have been moved from an in-person event to a virtual format. Nexion® Travel Group, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, recently hosted its annual conference virtually. While the virtual platforms miss the mark on actually being with one another, they do provide the safety and collaboration that is the focus of a conference.
Starting October 1, 2020, CoNexion at Home kicked into high gear, and the event was a home run for the Nexion Travel Group team and the travel professionals in attendance. Before the event, we were able to connect with the Nexion team for an update on the business and the support they have focused on through these past months of turbulence in our industry.
Jackie Friedman, President of Nexion Travel Group, shared that while 2020 has proven to be a challenging year, the Nexion team has seen an uptick in new agents that are looking to start a travel business. Whether it’s someone who was furloughed or someone who is excited to get to work for themselves, people are interested in becoming travel professionals.
In the discussion, Robbi Hamida, Senior Vice President, Agency Operations for Nexion Travel Group, shared the following, “COVID changed the world overnight and has restricted how we sell travel, handle travel and just about everything in between. While it has changed many things, these changes may be what was needed.
“Moving to our digital conference for 2020 has provided us a lot of learning for our business. One of the things we learned is that we see more interest in the digital formats versus the in-person events. We suspect that due to the travel bans and costs of travel, more travel professionals were able to partake, engage and learn from a distance,” continued Robbi.
Focusing on the rebuilding of travel, Jackie shared, “The pent-up demand is huge. We are seeing it with national park travel, RV travel and more, but once people can move again, they will.”
“We expect that it will take a few years for the travel industry to rebound to pre-COVID levels. However, we are seeing the consumer find creative ways to still travel such as family pods,” she continued.
Prior to the event, over 1,200 people had registered for the CoNexion at Home event. While 2020 is at home, CoNexion 2021 aboard Norwegian Joy sold out in 68 hours, and more cabins were added. “Travel professionals are excited and eager to connect, learn and get back to work,” shared Robbi.
Virtual Conference Platform
The platform that Nexion Travel Group used in its 2020 virtual conference was impressive to say the least. With a virtual lobby to select your destination, attendees could easily choose the next stop of their day.
I attended the General Session on Day 1, which included several inspiring moments from the Family Bonds Foundation, which Jackie Friedman made profound comments on. The power of support through these challenging times has shown travel professionals hope and inspiration.
After the introduction from Robbi Hamida, who was fashionably dressed per usual, Norwegian Cruise Line shared some great information and advice for travel professionals as we work on building the travel industry again.
Katina Athanasiou, Chief Sales Officer for Norwegian Cruise Line, shared that focus was the goal for each travel professional in terms of utilizing their time and skills the best way possible. She categorized four types of travelers who are looking at cruising into the future. After breaking down those four groups, Katina advised to focus effort on the “Ready to Go” market that is ready to go now and is solely waiting for the opportunity to be able to do it. She mentioned that the time investment in the “not quite ready” group may not be worth the investment, especially if they are waiting for a vaccine or further proof of the COVID pandemic being under more control.
One of the key takeaways from Katina’s presentation was that Norwegian Cruise Line has indeed seen an uptick in demand for future cruising. This is fantastic news for every travel professional and our industry as a whole.
Following up was a panel hosted by Jackie Friedman, President of Nexion® Travel Group. The panel consisted of leaders from the hotel, air and cruise sectors, and the information shared was full of hope and optimism. While the world is still not as open as we may like, the steps and procedures that are being conducted by these companies are spot on — from cleaning methods, mandates on masks and for social distancing.
Jackie asked the panel about the role of a Travel Professional as we look forward. The responses were overwhelming in favor that the Travel Professional is crucial for the growth and rebuilding of the travel sector — not only for their expertise but also for their knowledge and confidence to break into this “new world.”
The General Session had over 650 people in attendance, and the chat section was on fire the entire time! The interactivity, excitement and faith in the travel industry is in abundance, so the question of the future of travel is not an “if” but when!
Upon ending the General Session, Jackie shared her “crystal ball” outlook, “Stay positive and stay focused; the power of the Travel Advisor will be crucial in building travel confidence!”
As the day continued, the events only improved. From the NEXTalks, supplier roundtables and the tradeshow, each and every part of the day was well planned and perfectly catered. Having the tradeshow in a digital format could have been a major adjustment but the technology used by Nexion Travel Group allowed for interaction with the supplier representatives in an easy to use format. Travel professionals engaged with their favorite brands, discussed the future and educated themselves about new offerings and incentives.
As Day 2 commenced, the General Session was greeted with a discussion from Kristin Karst and Rudi Schreiner of AmaWaterways. The heartfelt message truly hit home with all 500+ attendees of the general session and the hope of river cruising becoming available to the U.S. market is strong. Kristin and Rudi addressed the travel professionals in attendance with compassion and care as the AmaWaterways team truly values the travel professional.
The Importance of ASTA
Jackie Friedman has been on the board of advisors of the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) for two years, and with that position, she has taken massive strides to further support travel professionals in many ways. Jackie not only has the travel professionals’ best wishes in mind but continues to be an advocate for equality, fairness and transparency on the status of our travel industry and the business of a travel professional.
As CoNexion at Home continued, several Nexion travel professionals received awards and recognitions from the suppliers including ASTA, Royal Caribbean and Apple Leisure Group. The travel professionals in attendance voiced their enthusiasm through comments full of congratulations and applause. The friendships in this group is truly inspiring.
While the world may be different today, we know that we will find a new way to connect, as we look forward and Nexion Travel Group and its travel professionals are eager for that day. The virtual convention was fantastic, and the connections and friendships between the Nexion team and travel professionals was and is inspiring.
We appreciate the opportunity to be a part of the 2020 CoNexion at Home event and look forward to sharing Nexion’s 2021 conference information with you all next year! Thank you to the entire Nexion Travel Group team for including us in your amazing conference! If you are interested in reading reviews or learning more about Nexion Travel Group as a Host Agency, make sure to visit their profile at https://findahosttravelagency.com/host-agencies/nexion/.